When you go through the process of implementing a core system (e.g. ERP system) for your business, you assume this system can meet all of your needs, but rarely does the implementation in your organization match the utopia you hope for. In this first of a series of three blog posts, we’re going to compare the benefits of purchasing a series of so called “point solutions” to tack on to the core system – or whether SharePoint may be the right answer for your situation.
Our first stop on this journey is exploring the need for point solutions. We’re going to explore the causes for core systems not meeting every need. We’ll also explorer how to identify where the gaps are in what your core system does today.
You have to draw the line somewhere
If you’re a developer of a core system, you’re trying to cover all of the standard things that every organization needs. Accounting, Inventory, Shipping, Product Catalog, etc., are going to be covered in nearly every system but at some point as a core system vendor, you’ve got to say to yourself that you’re not in that business.
The challenge is that there are dozens of smaller problems that your organization faces. Consider in the accounting space the need for a fixed asset system to keep track of all of the assets that the organization is depreciating. Perhaps in your organization you have a complex tax situation and you need special tax handling. You may operate in multiple countries and need a tool to help with currency management. These are not broad needs that a core system vendor is typically going to handle. There will be some solutions that the core system just can’t include.
Every organization is unique. No two organizations do exactly the same things or do them in the same ways. Sure, there are similarities between organizations; if you’re a car manufacturer, you probably do a lot of things similar to other car manufacturers, but there are things that are unique to your organization and your process. If there weren’t something unique no one would be able to determine your unique market proposition and to be competitive, you would be forced to compete on price.
Uniqueness leads to unique needs – needs that were not considered by the core system provider. Maybe there weren’t enough customers interested to warrant their development. So your uniqueness creates the gaps that the core system can’t solve.
It leaks out of every person
Just as the organization is unique, so is every person. They’ve their own way of doing things. Sometimes that way works well with the way the core system works – and other times it’s like nails on a chalkboard. Try convincing the 20 veterans of the shipping department that they have to batch pick, when they’re used to picking and shipping one customer at a time, it may not go well. The veteran’s process may work better than the process recommended right out of the box, but a mismatch is likely when the veteran wants to accomplish one thing and the system does another.
Every person in the organization has their established, efficiency habits. Some of those habits must change with the new system. Certainly there are efficiencies to be gained with a different process – but what if the difference doesn’t lead to improved performance? What if it’s just different?
Frequently what happens is the person diligently tries to comply with the new process. They soon find their previous way of doing things seeps back and the only option is to return to the familiar way they use to do things. They do this while trying to – work around the new system that is in place.
It leaves a mark
Having this struggle with what the new system wants and what the user is used to, is bound to leave a mark. If employee satisfaction surveys are done, it’s likely the numbers will take a dive. If you monitor employee efficiency you may find that some employees are just not as efficient as they were. However, the most effective way to find where the core system doesn’t fit the way the organization works is to look for the user who is creating their own solutions.
All of a sudden Microsoft Access databases spring up like wildfire. You’re suddenly faced with Excel spreadsheets that are 10MB in size. You’re hearing stories of how Bob uses macros to get his work done and how Susie does her work on a public web site, and then copies it down into the system.
You might see needs marked by an increased demand for applications in the application development group. Suddenly the application backlog grows as parts of the organization are seeking to become more efficient but they can’t do it on their own, they need help.
How do we get out of this mess?
The solution is to buy or develop solutions to meet the needs of the business – whether those needs are caused by organizational or individual uniqueness. The next article in the series, will address the most typical way that organizations pursue solutions to these problems – the point solution.